ID-101 (Part One)

by Brian 11. April 2011 17:22

What is Intelligent Design? If you ask the average proponent of Darwinian evolution, the answer is Creationism. He or she will say ID is nothing more than a god-of-the-gaps scheme concocted by a bunch of fundamentalist Christians. Ironically, if you ask the average Christian the same question, you’ll get a complimentary version of the same answer! When it comes to a real understanding of ID, neither side has much incentive to do the heavy lifting. It’s easier for opponents to excommunicate Intelligent Design from Science and those who believe in a Creator do not require it as a confirmation – ID is a given. Yet those at the forefront of Intelligent Design are adding to our understanding of the world; certainly more so than critics give them credit and probably less than what most theists think. The high road in this debate is neither ad hominem attack nor tacit support. 

What is Intelligent Design?

Straight from the Discovery Institute, the leading ID think-tank, Intelligent Design is defined as follows:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection[i]

Immediately the skeptic’s dander is up. They will say: ID invokes an intelligent cause, which we all know is God. Since science only deals with natural causes, ID is not science. Of course, this line of reasoning misconstrues the methodology ID scientists might employ with the potential outcome of their research. But critics do not stop here. It is not uncommon for them to introduce two more red herrings: First; invoking an intelligent cause for life and the universe hinders scientific inquiry and discovery. Second, an intelligent cause is beyond scientific investigation and therefore adds nothing to our understanding of the world. I will show why these accusations are false using the following analogy.

Imagine a forensic scientist who is asked to examine a deceased man in order to find the cause of death. The cause may be natural, or it may be the result of foul play – an intelligent cause. Let’s further imagine the man died from a rare toxin that entered his bloodstream and worked its way up to his heart causing cardiac arrest. Finally, let’s assume the conclusion from forensics, in this case, is murder. If correct, then clearly the efficient and final cause leading to the man’s death was human intelligence and not natural processes. Does this mean the methods employed by the forensic scientist to determine the cause were unscientific? - Of course not. Does this mean further studies in medicine, heart disease or the circulatory system should grind to a halt because of his findings? – Obviously not. What about our understanding of the world? We might not gain scientific knowledge in this case, but we certainly learned something very important – the cause of the man's death.

The attempts by critics to cut ID off at the knees are hardly convincing. But perhaps the work ID proponents are doing really isn’t science. So let’s take a closer look and delve into ID theory to see if we can find something substantive. Foundational to ID is William Dembski’s concept of Specified Complexity which essentially denotes the two hallmarks of design: complexity and a specified pattern. Before I go into this in more detail, it is worth noting there is a vast amount of criticism, disinformation, and polemics on the web from those who loathe anything ID. But what you will not find in the criticism is any recognition of the fact design-detection is something all of us do regularly. If you find an arrowhead in the woods you immediately recognize it as something manmade and not the product of natural forces and erosion. Since on the average critic’s universe, our minds are nothing more than biochemical computers; what sort of processing do you suppose goes on when we see an effect and infer a design cause? Perhaps the process could be discovered, understood and formulated. That is precisely what Dembski and others are trying to do.

The Explanatory Filter


Dembski’s explanatory filter is configured to prevent false-positives by giving necessity and chance the benefit of the doubt. This does mean the filter allows false-negatives through, where design is not detected. A good bit of modern-art might not make it past chance for example. That is, the filter might not distinguish an intentional set of splashes of paint on a canvas from several buckets of paint falling off a ladder onto a canvas. Even given this limitation, it's better than a false positive. The following, which I call the mountain archer analogy, explains how the filter works. Imagine an archer shooting an arrow off the top of a mountain down into a valley ten square miles in size. Further, imagine the archer is so high up the mountain, the arrow could reach any spot in the valley below…

·         Hitting the valley is a high probability (HP) and follows necessarily from initial conditions and the law of gravity. The archer could fire over his shoulder, blindfolded, and still hit the valley.


·         Hitting one of a small number of trees in the valley the archer was not aiming for is an intermediate probability (IP) – not exactly what one might expect, but certainly within the reach of chance.

·         Hitting a stream running through the valley the archer was aiming for is a specified intermediate probability (Spec + IP) – the filter would chalk this up to chance and register a false negative even though this was a good shot and involved an intelligent cause. But the archer could have been blindfolded and got lucky.

·         Hitting a particular pebble the archer was not aiming for would be a small probability (SP) – but unspecified. There are lots of pebbles in the valley and even though hitting a particular one is a small probability event, it is not unlikely to hit a pebble.

·         Hitting a particular pebble that you had earlier painted a bulls-eye on is a specified small probability (Spec + SP) and would make it through the filter to design. The archer is either an incredible shot or a good magician – either way, we have a design-cause.[ii] No one in their right mind would attribute such an event to chance.

Probabilistic Resources

Dembski introduces the concept of probabilistic resources which include replicational and specificational resources. Probabilistic resources comprise the relevant ways an event can occur.[iii] Replicational resources are basically the number of samples taken. In the above analogy, it could be the number of shots fired. Specificational resources refer to the number of opportunities or ways to specify an event. Using the same analogy, it could be the number of pebbles with bulls-eyes (or some other mark indicating a target.) Obviously, the greater number of pebbles with targets and the greater number of shots fired, the greater the probability of hitting a target. 

Universal Probability Bound

If the marked pebble has a surface area of one square inch, then the odds of hitting it at random are roughly 1 in 2.5e11 or one in 250 billion[iv] - about 3000 times less likely than winning the Power Ball lottery with a single ticket. Even if it may seem impractical, critics would argue that this is still within the reach of chance. This is where Dembski introduces his universal probability bound (UPB) - a degree of improbability below which a specified event of that probability cannot reasonably be attributed to chance regardless of whatever probabilistic resources from the known universe are factored in.[v]  The UPB is 1e150 (one with a hundred and fifty zeros after it.) These odds, by taking the inverse, are so small; it would be about as likely to win the Power Ball twenty times in a row with one ticket each! Something even the contrarian realizes would be the result of intelligence and not luck (i.e. someone is cheating.)

But what does Dembski mean by: regardless of whatever probabilistic resources from the known universe are factored in? Here he is basing his probabilistic resources limit on the product of the number of elementary particles in the known universe (1e80) repeating every instant (1e45 per second [based on Plank time]) since the beginning of time in seconds (1e25) = 1e150. This seems like overkill, but apparently, you need this to overcome skepticism.[vi] But do we really need this much overhead? Take for example the estimated number of grains of sand on all of the beaches on earth. Say I traveled to a random beach and dug down and marked a single grain of sand. Now if you go to a random beach anywhere on earth, to a random spot, dig to a random depth (up to 5 meters), and grab a random grain, the odds of it being the same grain as the one I marked are estimated at one in 7.5e18. A rational person would never believe this would happen by chance. Even so, those odds are 131 orders of magnitude better than one in 1e150. The rational position is to realize there comes a point where theoretical possibility must give way to a practical possibility. The odds one in 1e150 are not zero, so a specified, small-probability event at this scale is not theoretically impossible, but it is rational to conclude its practical impossibility.

So far Dembski’s filter appears to be sound. But there is another criticism from detractors: affinities and constraints in the probability landscape can create the appearance of design completely by chance. Say for example the archer shot multiple arrows at random each with a long string of equal length. The resulting semicircle pattern on the valley below might be considered a design-cause since it is unlikely such a pattern would emerge at random. But this criticism obviously fails to recognize how in this case the probability landscape is greatly reduced by the constraint (the string) so that each event necessarily falls within a semicircle swath in the valley below. But perhaps there are laws governing the universe where affinities and constraints shape chaos into order. In a future post, I will try to tackle this and the other foundational principle of ID – irreducible complexity. It is when specified complexity meets the real world things get tricky.

[ii]This analogy does not take into account Dembski’s universal probability bound of 1e-150 which is over 138 orders of magnitude more stringent than the odds in this analogy

[iii]The Design Inference, William Dembski, pg.181

[iv] This assumes an equal probability of hitting any location across the valley below which in real life would not be the case – for example, if you could hit the corners you could likely land outside the valley as well.

[v] ISCID Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy (1999)

[vi]This seems straightforward in terms of replicational resources but I do question the validity of also including specificational resources here. Samples repeated as quickly as physically possible in every conceivable location in the universe since the big bang does seem to set an upper limit for replicational resources, but I do not see the relation to how specifications can be varied. Imagine every elementary particle in the universe has a piggyback random number generator cranking out 200-digit numbers one every Plank-time since the big bang. One would reasonably expect that the significand of the square root of two had not been generated out 200 places. But what about the irrational square roots of any positive integer and their significands to 200 places? I’m sure SETI would consider a binary transmission of 200 digits of the square root of two to have an intelligent cause – but what about the square root of 3 or 7, etc?

The Grand Design

by Brian 15. March 2011 21:18

When we think of apologetics, case-for arguments come to mind. But sometimes the apologetic enterprise is about guiding towards what is true by steering away from what is false. As C. S. Lewis wrote: Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.[i]I can think of no better example of this in recent months than a response to the book written by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Having just finished The Grand Design (TGD), the primary message of the book is still very clear in my mind: Science is the only means of discovery; philosophy is dead; God is unnecessary.

One would expect minimal impact from facile rehash sprinkled with the words quantum mechanics. But throw in the media support for Hawking and anything attempting to undermine theism these days, and I am not so sure. When the new philosophy is addressed by the greatest scientist in the world, you have mass appeal ad verecundiam. Though sales of TGD are not likely to surpass Hawking’s previous book, A Brief History of Time (which sold over nine million copies), many will read this new work and be influenced by it. And even though I’ve seen a good deal of criticism online, I am also seeing a lot of positive posts on Amazon and Goodreads. Christians might fail to recognize the potential impact here. A pastor of a large church could preach to a different congregation each week for his entire career and not convey a perspective to as many individuals as just one popular book like Hawking’s last one. Do the math!

To be fair to the authors, I should tell you parts of the book were good. I enjoyed the physics and cosmology overview as well as revisiting some of the moments from science history. I also appreciated the author’s strong affirmation of cosmic fine-tuning. But the rest of the book was downright sloppy and in this blog I intend to cover what I thought were the most egregious areas.

  • Traditional philosophy is dead. The oracle of the new philosophy is the scientist.
  • M-theory is our best hope for a unified theory
  • The Hartle-Hawking no boundary model does away with the cosmological argument
  • The multiverse does away with the teleological argument from fine tuning
  • Realism is dead. Antirealism is in.

Traditional philosophy is dead
Right at the outset the reader is hit with an astonishing paragraph:

“What is the nature of Reality? Where did all of this come from? Did the Universe need a creator? … Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.[ii]

Hawking has a Ph.D. in natural science and Mlodinow a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Although neither of the authors are experts in philosophy, we should expect men of their caliber to at least have a cursory understanding of the field. Two of his three opening questions are primarily philosophical! A good philosopher will draw from science in answering these questions, but it is naïve to think a good scientist could tackle them without philosophy. I was so taken aback by this opening statement my mind grasped for some kind of plausible explanation for their position. But after reading the book and wading through one bad assumptive argument after another, it does appear the authors wandered out of their league. Here is a sample of what they try to embark upon in this book relying heavily on (or falling squarely in) the domain of philosophy:

  • Model-dependent realism (which is an odd sort of scientism + antirealism)
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Are the laws of physics prescriptive or descriptive?
  • Scientific determinism, freewill and the reality of miracles
  • Ontological relativism and observer-created reality
  • Applying aesthetics in determining the superiority of theories
  • The extrapolation of Feynman’s sum over histories into an ontological model

Since there is practically no new science in TGD (it rehashes what has been known for years, and even decades), one can reasonably say the novel material in this book is almost entirely philosophical! So what audacity for the authors to start out with the claim, philosophy is dead.

They like M-theory; the no-boundary model and the multiverse
I will not attempt to argue the merits of m-theory, which has been around for about 15 years.  It is worth noting however, some of the world’s leading theorists in the field hold this work-in-progress very tentatively [iii]. The jury is still out for string theory as a whole and m-theory in particular. But then don’t take my word for it, see Hawking and Mlodinow’s own words:

“People are still trying to decipher the nature of m-theory. But that may not be possible. It could be that the physicist’s traditional expectation of a single theory of nature is untenable, and there exists no single formulation.[iv]

Yet despite the tentativeness of ten-dimensional string theory and the uncertainty of the very nature of m-theory, the authors base a large part of their metaphysical worldview on it by applying their particular physical interpretations to these models with no observational support[v] and then gratuitously extrapolating.

In TGD we also see the 1983 Hartle-Hawking no-boundary proposal reheated. Again, there is nothing novel here. It is the same quantum gravity idea proposed in Hawking’s last book[vi].  Using imaginary numbers for the time variable allows Hawking to round off the beginning point of the big bang singularity. In TGD, the authors describe this by using the South Pole as an analogy. The South Pole is much like any other point they say, and nothing is south of the South Pole[vii].  Therefore, no absolute beginning to universe is necessary – problem solved. Even though a physical interpretation of this mathematical trick using imaginary numbers is tough to swallow, we’ll see how the authors believe model-dependent realism takes care of this. For more information on the Hartle-Hawking model and how it applies to the cosmological argument, check this out.

Then we get to Hollywood’s favorite from cosmology – the multiverse. Paul Davies’ treatment of this in The Goldilocks Enigma is far better than what is presented in TGD. So I won’t go into too much detail as you can read more about it here. I was surprised though by the author’s metaphysical extrapolation of Feynman’s mathematical path integration tool into an ontological model. They write (and note the tangential defensiveness):

Some people make a great mystery of this idea, sometimes called the multiverse concept, but these are just different expressions of the Feynman sum over histories[viii]…The multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.

Apart from the brash dive into metaphysics from the so-called new bearers of discovery, the physical interpretation is dubious at best. Simply because a particle could take more than one path from A to B, as described by Feynman’s path-integration, doesn’t mean a particle actually takes all possible paths.  Feynman and others might assume they do, for the purposes of applying the tool, but the paths are not observable. The idea a particle actually takes an infinite number of possible paths is just one physical interpretation of the mathematical model – and an odd one at that.

In the double–slit experiment Feynman’s ideas mean the particles take paths that go through only one slit or the other; paths that thread through the first slit, back out through the second slit, and then through the first one again; paths that visit the restaurant that serves that great curried shrimp, and then circle Jupiter a few times before heading home; even paths that go across the universe and back.[ix]  Really?!

The authors fail to mention other interpretations and leave the reader thinking Feynman’s sum over histories substantiates the multiverse. This get’s downright funny when you consider model-dependent realism which essentially says for Hawking, a particle actually does take all possible paths. But for someone else who interprets the same mathematical models differently, the particles do not – and neither interpretation can be said to be more real than the other!

So that I am not accused of argumentum ad ignorantiam let me be clear in saying that I am not claiming m-theory, Hawking’s quantum-gravity model and the multiverse are false because they haven’t been proven true. What I am saying is one cannot leap from tentative mathematical models to one’s preferred physical interpretation with no observational support and then leap again to profound metaphysical conclusions without doing so hastily and gratuitously. And you certainly cannot do it without entering the realm of philosophy!That is precisely what has been done in TGD.

Let’s get real
Hawking and Mlodinow’s model-dependent realism was by far the most bizarre part of the book for me. Here’s how they describe it:


It [model-dependent realism] is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other, rather, we are free to use whichever model is more convenient…According to model-dependent realism; it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation.[x]


The authors give an example by comparing the 13.7-billion-year-old-universe model versus the young-universe (literal Genesis interpretation) model and say the old-universe model is more useful, but still, neither model can be said to be more real than the other[xi]. Ha! I’d love to hear how the new-atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins feel about the idea their perspective is no more real than the creationist’s! But seriously, the authors come across disingenuous here. Are we really supposed to believe Hawking and Mlodinow do not consider their interpretation more real than the creationist’s? Furthermore, the authors appear to equivocate with their terms: model, theory, physical-theory and hypothesis. They seem to use them interchangeably. But regardless, the statement: If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other, seems to disregard other factors for weighing a proposed explanation for an observed phenomenon, like: simplicity, scope, fruitfulness, conservatism along with testability[xii]. Such evaluation would involve meta-science, which may be why it is overlooked.

The fact is, one of the two hypotheses; the 13.7-billion-year or the literal-6-day-creation, is more real than the other! A careful reading of the author’s statement “one cannot be said to be more real” might lead one to conclude they are being somewhat reasonable by suggesting the problem is merely epistemic – that is to say, one is more real, we just do not know which. But that is not what they are claiming. Hawking and Mlodinow are saying neither model is more real ontologically. The authors are antirealists and reject the notion of an observer-independent world[xiii]. There is only one reason I can think of for them to choose this route: They recognize the huge gulf between their tentative mathematical models and the profound metaphysical statements they make. The only way to bridge this gulf is to do away with realism altogether and then judge their models using a narrow scientific perspective. By disregarding the philosophy of science, they can ignore qualities like conservatism which would compare and contrast their metaphysical conclusions with other knowledge-systems to see how well they hold up.

In conclusion, Hawking and Mlodinow set out on a very ambitious journey to make their case for what they believe are the answers to some very profound metaphysical problems. Why is there something rather than nothing? The authors do not answer this and only present one possible view as to why there is something rather than something else[xiv]. Is God unnecessary? According to TGD, He should be replaced by some sort of cosmic life principle, a First-Law, Physics (with a capital ‘P’); or a Force which is more at home with Star Wars than reality. Has cosmic fine-tuning been addressed? No. Although the book does a good job in emphasizing the problem, they leave the reader with the dubious multiverse – a hypothesis Roger Penrose has said is worse than useless in explaining the anthropic fine-tuning of the universe. Finally, just when I thought postmodernism was dead, it is resurrected by scientists!

[i] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1949), 50


[ii] Location 42 of 2387 Kindle edition


[iii] Go to for excerpts from Roger Penrose. Also see Paul Davies in the Goldilocks Enigma.


[iv] Location 1179 of 2387 Kindle edition


[v] Roger Penrose - “M-theory enjoys no observational support whatever”



[vi] A Brief History of Time pg. 136


[vii] Location 1361 of 2387 Kindle edition (also in A Brief History of Time pg. 138)


[viii] Location 1383 and 1659 of 2387 Kindle edition


[ix] Location 731 of 2387 Kindle edition


[x] Location 61, 436 of 2387 Kindle edition


[xi] Location 483 of 2387 Kindle edition


[xii] Schick, Theodore; Vaughn, Lewis (2002)


[xiii] Location 351, 412 of 2387 Kindle edition


[xiv] They never address creation from real nothingness – a quantum vacuum is not nothing

What is objective morality?

by Brian 24. January 2011 01:56

Let's start with what objective means given the word’s versatility. In philosophy, objective refers to existence apart from perception. An object independent of perception does not change with our feelings, interpretations, or prejudices. Applied to moral values; if they are objective, then they are discovered, not invented. Contrast this with subjective moral values which change from person to person, culture to culture, etc. If morality is objective, it is reasonable to ask: What is the mind-independent basis for objective morality and is this basis sufficiently binding? In other words, it is not enough to show some external ground for morality and then subjectively link that grounding with obligation. An obligation to a particular ethical system must transcend personal preference and have some significant grounding in the object of perception. 

On Christianity, moral values have their objective and universal basis in the immutable nature of God. He neither arbitrarily created the moral law, nor is there an external moral domain in which God is subject. Moral values are, because of who God is. Now there is a common misconception where it is thought all monotheists, such as Christians, are moral objectivists and all non-monotheists (agnostics, atheists, pantheists, etc.) are moral relativists. That is not the case. Whether an individual position is tenable or not; there are plenty of worldviews where it is thought morality finds its objectivity in something other than God. Some believe man’s survival is the objective foundation for ethics. The new atheists point to human flourishing. There are environmentalists who think the perpetuation of the earth’s biosphere is an objective foundation. Some eastern religions believe in a sort of Platonic realm which is the source of our moral perceptions. So it’s safe to say all sorts of worldviews hold a belief in objective morality. 

But are all of these various claims of objectivity binding? Take human self-interest as an objective foundation for ethics. I would argue there is a certain arbitrariness involved where the subscribers to this view subjectively decided human self-interest (which is real and objective) is universally binding. Compare this with our hypothetical environmentalist. Let’s say he is in favor of sterilizing the entire African continent because the cost incurred by the population is worth the benefit to the biosphere. So one group sees self-interest, and the libertarian right to be left alone, trumping an uncertain future for the biosphere. The other views things to the contrary. Who will adjudicate between these views and on what objective basis? You cannot appeal to the rule of the land because might does not necessarily make right. If country A holds the biosphere above people and invades and sterilizes country B who holds the individual higher, was country A’s act morally permissible? You and I might say the hypothetical act of Country A is wrong, but there would have to be an overriding ethic to make such a claim. 

This leads us to the moral nihilist who rejects the objectivity of morality altogether. Michael Ruse, who teaches in my hometown at Florida State University, appears to agree with moral nihilism or at best sees survival as an objective basis: 

Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth…Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says 'Love they neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…Nevertheless...such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction…and any deeper meaning is illusory…[1] 

If we are all chance-configured bags of atoms equipped with meat computers doing our best to survive on an insignificant planet orbiting one of three hundred sextillion stars in a universe winding down to heat-death, then Ruse makes sense. If I were an atheist, I would adopt moral nihilism and try to be a good person for utilitarian reasons (not to say as a Christian I do not make utilitarian choices.) So I agree, without God, there is no binding objective basis for morality.

Then there are those who opt out of this discussion altogether and simply claim to navigate moral waters by being reasonable and rational. Yet history shows this can be a misleading approach and few would argue Nazi scientists lacked the cognitive faculty for moral reasoning. In the interest of brevity, consider the conclusion by atheist Kai Neilson who said it well: “Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” Those who claim to make moral judgments by just being reasonable are not being very articulate. For example, if someone asks you how to lose weight; you might say exercise and smaller portions are reasonable choices, but to merely say you should act reasonably does not really answer the question. Surely reason plays a part, but something else is needed to get you to morality. 

But what about those who claim a divine basis for objective morality is problematic. Religious groups argue, disagree, and fight with each other; all in the name of objective moral values handed down from on high. Even within a single religious camp, there is some disagreement about what is objectively right and wrong. Take the death penalty. Some Christians feel as I do that the Bible paints a clear narrative where man should not usurp God’s authority on when life begins and ends. Abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty are all morally wrong from my understanding. However, other Christians accept a pro-death-penalty exegesis of Scripture. Who’s right in the mind of God? Well, I think I am, but maybe I'm wrong! Critics confuse the epistemic problem (the knowing) with the ontological problem (the reality) and miss the point. God’s moral position on the death penalty is the correct one. Instead of sticking our heads in the sand because there is occasional disagreement, we ought to continually devote ourselves to understanding God’s position. If the God of Christianity does not exist, it’s senseless to point to ethical misunderstandings in the Church. It would make as much sense to argue about the worldwide chimney damage caused by Santa Claus. If the Christian God does exist, then this sort of critique is just a red herring.

Do we get to decide how binding an ethical system is regardless of its objective grounds? I suggest we do except in one and only one case - God. He is the exception. As the greatest conceivable being, creator of all things, and locus of moral value, mere created man does not get to decide if the moral values grounded in His nature are binding. As volitional creatures, we only get to decide if we are going to adhere to those values or not. In all other ethical systems, there is personal preference. Subjectivity is involved if it is human flourishing, self-interest, a green planet, or that which creates the most pleasure, happiness, profit, etc. There is no universally binding obligation to abide by these systems. If one system rejects the virtue of self-sacrifice based on the objective principle of man’s self-interest, why should I be obligated by this system and act selfishly? Some would say we have no choice but to abide by human self-interest since we are human. But this only makes sense if a man is the measure of all things. If a hyper-intelligent race of aliens were to come through our solar system and consume the entire human population like we consume cattle, would this be wrong? Who will adjudicate and on what objective basis?

In conclusion; universally binding objective moral values exist if and only if God exists.[2] Those who see objectivity apart from God, subjectively assign an obligatory value to the object of perception. When we see these systems in conflict and must appeal to a higher ethic, it should raise doubt about their status. If we live in the atheist's material universe, then there is no ultimate justice or final moral consequence. At death, all of our moral choices in life become irrelevant. Legacy does not help to resolve the problem. Once we are dead, the deep sleep of non-existence dissolves time and space leaving no gap between now and the mass extinction of man when the universe reaches maximum entropy. But if the Christian God exists, then our relationship to Him is essential to moral obligation. From a divine-command standpoint, as consequence approaches eternity, obligation approaches infinity. From a divine-nature perspective, we can know what is good, because we know He is good. And if we love Him, we will want to do what He commands. (John 14:23)

[1] Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.
[2] I am excluding any sort of unknown Platonic realm of moral perception here 

About the author

I am a Christian, husband, father of two daughters, an owner of ISC, lead architect of MapDotNet, armchair apologist and philosopher, writer of hand-crafted electronic music, and a kid around anything that flies (rockets, planes, copters, boomerangs, hot air baloons, lawn furniture)

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